Well, it’s finally here. And in just a few days, if you listen closely, you will hear the grinding of teeth from movie exhibitors and distribution companies everywhere, as this film fails to meet its expectations. This is not really surprising, when you think about it. Dan Brown wrote a hit book, and for some reason popular novels do not generally do well on the movie screen. But of course there’s more. Novels by their nature have a sense of the unreal; the reader gets caught up in the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ and enters a world created by the author, accepting the stated conditions. But movies present the story as if it really happens, and so the viewer must convince not only his sense of the narrative, but his eyes and ears must also concur to its validity. When something doesn’t jibe, it burrs against the rest of the story and distracts to the point that the viewer dislikes the story.
I am of course writing about 'The DaVinci Code', and no my column title is not a typo. The story by Dan Brown is hardly new, though I will grant that Brown was able to package the lie in an attractive way. You don’t sell millions of copies of a book unless the story is told well, and frankly if Brown, or Ron Howard for that matter, were honest enough to emphasis that this is a work of fiction there would be no issue to mention here. But Brown began with a popular lie, and an old one. Basically, as Christianity began to spread and grow, there was some confusion about the person and nature of Christ Jesus. Not that many people could read, and in those years before printing presses, authentic copies of the Gospel were hard to find. So teachers and preachers sometimes presented their own thoughts on the matters, and sometimes this led to some truly bizarre notions. But the fact remains that the basic tenets of the Church were established within a very short time after the years Christ walked among us, a fact which Brown discarded in order to sell his story.
Brown chose Da Vinci for his rebellious secret-holder, because of Da Vinci’s indisputable brilliance, habits of secrecy and hidden writings (such as his habit of writing backwards, right-to-left, which required a mirror or some ocular dexterity to read), and several noted arguments with the Church. Unfortunately, it was necessary to sell the story by misportraying DaVinci, having him say things he never said and be part of groups he never knew. I called this article the Picasso Code, because when you see a DaVinci painting, you see what the artist saw; in the case of a Picasso, you see things in an artificial construct, knowing it is not real. You accept what you know to be false, and this is the mind-set required to accept Dan Brown’s pretense.
Others have done better than I could at taking apart the claims made by Brown, but I am writing here about the film in specific, and the reasons why it, well, blows. First would be the effective way the Church has addressed the story’s claims. Rather than angrily denounce the story, the Church has made many efforts to discuss the claims and compare them with historical facts, which rather quickly proves Brown to be a poor historian and a bad liar. His claims regarding the Council of Nicea, the status of Arius, the dates of the canonical and heretical Gospel accounts and the character of the same, all quickly prove to be basest falsehoods. As to the claim of Jesus not dying on the cross, and so marrying Mary Magdelene and raising a family, Brown produces not a single piece of evidence to support that myth, except to attempt altering the extant Gospels. And Brown never does explain why anyone would care about a man who had claimed divinity and proved to be just a man; either Jesus was Whom He said He Was, or He was not. Brown makes the fundamental mistake of trying to play it both ways.
Such errors can be overlooked in a book, if one is willing to play along, but in the movie they fail to impress, and all the fevered posturing of Tom Hanks cannot change that.